Maybe I should be thankful my wife and I are working in Turkey, we have very few expenses, we don't need a car, and we are living quite modestly (except for time to travel the region). "Like our ancestors, you crossed the ocean in search of opportunity and a better way of life," a friend emails ironically. Maybe so, but I hope I AM NOT like my ancestors. I do not want to accept that America is no longer THE land of opportunity, or that the American dream may no longer be possible for many. I hope it's not true. I hope I AM NOT part of a trend of Americans leaving home and finding better opportunities abroad.
Unlike our long-ago ancestors, I can dream about returning home in a year or two. For them, if they managed to survive a trip across the ocean, they couldn't even think about coming home a few months or a few years later. They would just have to break ties with the old country.
I couldn't bear doing that. I want my son to go to high school in AMERICA. I don't want him to spend a third of his life outside America, which he would do if we stayed through his high school years.
That said, it seems to be a good time to be living outside the United States. White House economists predict anemic job growth in America for 2010, over 9 percent. Once Stigmatized, Food Stamps Find Acceptance even among conservatives. The Atlantic Monthly takes an in-depth look at this new era of high unemployment that will alter the life course of a generation of young people, take a huge toll on marriages, and "plunge many inner cities into despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come." Previously, the Atlantic offered this thought-provoking piece: How the Crash Will Reshape America.
Nobel prize-winner James Heckman points out (PDF) that the high school graduation rate in America actually peaked in the late 1960s and has since declined.
In many ways, this economic pessimism reminds me of the economic pessimism of the early 1980s. Remember that it wasn't until 1984, just in time for Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign, that recovery was fully in place. In 1982, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent; in 1983 it was 9.6 percent, in 1984 it dropped to 7.5 percent, and continued to drop down to 5.3 percent in 1989 before starting to rise again. It didn't get below 6 percent again until 1995. (Historical U.S. unemployment figures.)
Turkey, on the other hand, is an emerging economic powerhouse.
The Dangers of Economic Optimism, by Derek Thompson.
The Dangers of Economic Pessimism, by Daniel Gross.